cw: this blog contains mentions of disordered eating.
mental health awareness week. it’s funny, isn’t it? that the world needs awareness days and weeks and months to shine a spotlight on things that, for some of us, are our everyday lives. we don’t get a break from it once the awareness events are over. i live with mental illness every single day of my life, and have done ever since i can remember, but i didn’t get officially diagnosed with anything until a few years ago.
this year, the theme of mental health awareness week is body image. people are sharing their stories and words of encouragement with the hashtag #bebodykind so i thought there was no better time than now to tell you my body-love story.
when i was in high school, i found myself constantly comparing my body to my classmates and friends. wondering how different my life would be if i was a tall, beautiful blue eyed, blonde haired girl instead of the awkward, glasses-wearing mousy haired child i was. i’d cry myself to sleep at night wishing i was like the beautiful girls in my school with real friendships and boyfriends. i was the dorky, awkward girl with the weird obsessions (boy bands, film franchises, tv shows, video games…) who had very few friends. and the few friends i did have, i was always convinced in my mind that they were only pretending to be my friends and that it was all a big ploy to make a fool out of me.
without going into too much detail (i’ll elaborate in a series of future posts), at some point in my early teens i began a battle with disordered eating. i was always slim growing up but i never felt it – i mean, i had tummy rolls when i sat down and my thighs squished out when i sat down so i had to be fat, right? the media at that time didn’t show anyone above a size 6 and their bodies were always so perfectly smooth and photoshopped, so i didn’t know how normal it was to have bumps and rolls and squish, no matter what your size. i thought i needed to lose weight, so i stopped eating. i’d prod and poke at my stomach in the mirror, wishing i could just take a pair of scissors and cut it off. this restriction of food eventually lead to a cycle of binging and purging – i’d starve myself during the day in order to stuff my face full of absolute junk at night. i piled the weight back on, and i hated myself. i was no bigger than a size 12/14 but to me at that time, it was the worst thing i could be.
i can’t pinpoint where things changed for me, it must have been around the time i dropped out of sixth form and went to college instead. i think getting away from the toxic environment that was my high school/sixth form (more on that in another post) helped me get my head into gear. i was also travelling the country a lot for concerts, spending time with real friends, seeing our favourite band, and my weight seemed to plateau back to my ‘normal’. i still didn’t love my body, heck i didn’t even like it most days, and i still often caught myself in a binge/purge cycle, but i was doing better.
fast forward a few years, i’ve moved to london and lost both my parents within 13 months of each other – my mental health was a MESS. i was losing weight and people would compliment it with ‘oh you’ve lost weight, you look so good!’ when really i was just too fucking sad to eat anything, and when i did it would result in more binge/purge cycles. my body image was a shambles, i didn’t recognise myself when i looked in the mirror.
somewhere along the line i fell head over heels for pretty lingerie. i was wandering around la senza just for something to do, and ended up going for a bra ‘fitting’ (looking back i was fitted completely wrong but hey, this was about 6 years ago and now i know so much better). i bought myself a cute set, and felt my spirits lift a little as i looked at myself and thought ‘hey, it’s not all bad’. i spent as much as my poor student budget could stretch to on ann summers, la senza and victoria’s secret and loved the feeling of wearing pretty things under my clothes that nobody knew about except me. it was not an overnight transformation – i was great at putting on a front and pretending to be confident and self-assured, but deep down inside i wasn’t at all.
then i discovered the world of proper bra fitting and oh boy, i thought i felt okay about myself before but this was a whole other level. a bra that perfectly fit my curves? giving me a shape i’d never have dreamt that i had? it ignited a spark inside me. i discovered brands i’d never heard of before, found styles i’d never dreamed of or imagined could have existed for DD+ cups. just putting something pretty, lacy or silky on my body made me feel so good about myself. i could look in the mirror and not feel my stomach drop.
i set up my tiny little instagram account, anonymously to begin with, to help me on my self love journey. i took photos in my lingerie and posted them, not really with any intention other than to help me look at my body in a different light. i found the self love/body confidence movement and the lingerie community, and that little spark in me grew into a burning fire. i saw all these beautiful human beings showing off their bodies and being proud, loving themselves unconditionally. i curated my social media feeds to get rid of anything that didn’t resonate with me, or made me feel bad about myself. i followed body positive, confident, self-loving womxn and felt my own self love rise. i realised all bodies are beautiful and worthy and wonderful, regardless of size, shape, colour. and if i was thinking that about everyone else’s bodies, why couldn’t i think that about mine too?
for me, my lingerie is a form of self expression and self care. lingerie to me is like a fierce red lip to someone else, or a well-tailored suit, or a killer pair of heels. i can wear something that’s dark, strappy and vampy one day, and something light, pretty and romantic the next. i can match my lingerie to my vibe and it always makes me feel great when i’ve got a matching set on. even just my everyday basic nude, black and white sets put a pep in my step when they’re matching! my biggest rule when i’m lingerie shopping is that i buy it for me. i’m lucky to have a partner who appreciates a good set as much as i do, but i always buy what i want, and what i feel good in. i don’t owe anyone anything, and neither do you. i’m still awkward and dorky, but i’ve learnt to embrace it because that’s what makes me, me!
that all being said, my battle isn’t over. there are still days where i catch myself being negative about my body, or when my demons get the better of me and i think ‘what’s the point?’ – it is an ongoing journey, an ongoing battle against my inner voices, but at least i look and feel fabulous while i do it thanks to my cute undies! without fail, when i’m having a bad day, just putting on a fierce as hell set can really give me that little kick i need to get my head into gear, at least long enough to get my to-do list done.
my biggest bit of advice is just be kind. be kind to yourself, be kind to others. the support you give your best friend when they’re looking amazing in a new outfit? give yourself that same level of support because you deserve it. surround yourself with wonderful people, cut out toxic people where possible, and curate your social media. we live in such a strange world right now where celebrities are endorsing and promoting dangerous diet pills and detox teas while brands are pushing for diversity and inclusivity, but your number one priority should always be you and your mental health.
xo, the lingerie princess